tv Politics Public Policy Today CSPAN June 5, 2014 3:00pm-5:01pm EDT
would be happy to answer any questions you may have. >> all written testimony will be included in the record. we have kevin o'connor, for the public poll of international association of firefighters. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i'm here representing 300,000 professional firefighters and paramedics who provide fire rescue and ems services across our great nation. let me thank you for the introduction of the flexibility act and firefighters greatly appreciate it and for the support on appropriation for the other programs is very much appreciated by our organization. wild land fires increase in intensity and duration and scope, they are a threat from coast to coast, from 2003 to 2012, over 17 million acres have been scorched by wildfires, claiming over 300 lives and destroying 34,000 homes and resulting in $70 billion in insurance claims. as you know, mr. chairman, the raging fires currently
threatening your state are stark reminder of this present danger. before the hearing we spoke with tom wescott. he estimates that a vast majority of his membership will be engaged in those efforts before the fire is finally brought under control. the scourge of wildfires has become epidemic and will i am peril our nation. changing the way in which federal government budgets for wild land fire fighting. it makes sense and should be done but only a first step. for decades firefighters are battled on how to deal with wildfires. today with the increased development of wild land urban interface, we want to develop a more wholistic strategy to deal with the issue. the clearly the federal government must take the lead. we applaud the strategy. this strategy establishes a national vision for wild land fire management and response. the strategy is an excellent first step but once again more
must be done in the 1960 and 1970s they were blited with with arson. the national commission on fire prevention and control issued the landmark report america burning. over 40 years later it is frequently cited and still has value. the federal government should take a similar appropriate to the wild land fire program. we propose the establishment of a blue ribbon commissioned modeled after america burning with congressional participation to fully study this issue and make recommendations. although the iff, they have yet to act. the federal government is the only entity that can ensure the participation of all stake holders. we hope that either their own volition or general nudge from congress they will soon act. state and local governments contend with devastating wild land fires and privately held or state owned lands, fire fighting operations are exclusively
handled by state and local assets. it's safe to say throughout the southeast, nearly every firefighter will be called upon to fight a wildfire. disturbingly not all firefighters are trained to battle these fires. cash stroped firefighters cannot afford training. we propose a pilot program to provide wild land fire training for local firefighters in high risk areas. furthermore, because fire fighting is inherently governmental function, it should be a default policy to contract with a governmental entity having jurisdiction in the impacted area if additional fire fighting resources are needed beyond the federal effort. however, if private contractors are required they should be required to meet the same rigorous standards of their governmental counterparts, period. this is an issue of public safety and firefighter safety and operational efficiency. lastly we need to protect the men and women on fire line.
brave firefighters from the hot shots team and i flt f local 3066 died in the line of duty battling the yarnell hill fire. the death or injury of any firefighter should give us pause. wild land fire fighting is physically taxing and emotional draining and incredibly dangerous. the job differs greatly from that a structural firefighter. wild land firefighters are on scene fighting fire for days or even weeks at a time. through government investment and reresearch over many years, much is known about the health impacts for fighting fire and how best to protect them. but we're only beginning to examine these impact on lild land firefighters. as a leader in firefighter health and safety the iff is uniquely positioned to help coordinate research efforts. with our california forestry local 2881, san diego state university and much appreciated funding from the department of
agriculture, research has already started. san diego partnering with cdf studying improving protective clothing, a great start. to prevent death and injury it is incumbent we study staffing patterns and other metrics to ascertain the impact on firefighter health and safetying. partial funding from d.o.a. has been provided and we encourage the federal government to continue this investment until the resource is completed. we must act now and very divisively on multiple fronts to address this complicated issue. i thank you for the opportunity to testify and will gladly answer questions. >> let go to the mayor. i was down there at the river fire which we all know has been a top priority, i know for fire fighting. we appreciate you and thank you or being on a pilot of using our
technology. will allow you to testify and open up for questions after your testimony. >> thank you, senator. >> uh-oh. >> hold tight. >> i appreciate you for holding this hearing and touring the area and asking the right questions about the adequacy of the response and whether or not resources were available when needed and where needed. in answer to that i think it absolutely. i was exceptionally impressed with the incident command structure in the way there was coordination between all of the agencies and we had incredibly high winds changing wind directions and conditions but the knowledge that they command team had of fuel sources and fire behavior and logistics, all of the things that count when you're really reacting to an
ever changing fire dynamics was truly impressive. the coordination between the agencies, i can't say enough about how all of the resources and resource agencies worked together. one of the things that i should point out is that the refuge folks were quick to order up a command team and had done fire breaks between urban and wildland interface that were critical to the way the planning and protection of the populated areas and structures there. we were very, very fortunate. i want to say thanks to you and to the resources that were put towards this and result was that we had very few small structures, remote cabins lost. all of the residential areas were protected and priorities were clear from the outset that is protection of the firefighters who are employed,
also protection of life and property in the urban areas and developed areas around the peninsula and looking where the important infrastructure is including very high voltage lines that needed to be protected. and i want to ask just talk briefly about the importance of the planning process, well in advance of what we know are going to be an increasing number of wildfires. that is federal resources important to the peninsula in a variety of ways, we had funding over a long period of time to deal with the beatle infestation and allowed us to build a coordinated plan that we could identify where the consensus was and where the consensus was is making sure that we enhance natural fire breaks and roads between urban and wildland areas in the event that at some point
we saw a wildland fire that would threaten the developed areas. we over a period of time we got as much as about $18 million from the federal government and we use that to build fire breaks and do a fire wise program and renew fuel sources. i think that this is critically important. the other thing that we also used federal grant funding there, the information system. we have a very good system. we update it regularly, the last time we were able to update it with a federal grant doing aerial flight to gather the data and put it in the system was actually 2012. we have pretty up to date information on where structures were, including in remote areas. it allowed them to tap into our system and use it where they were going to muster resources and it was an excellent planning tool. that's one of the things in
looking at whether or not resources were adequate in this case as i said i was very impressed with the level of effort that went into this fire, resources that were employed and planning that went into it on a nightly basis and the planning that was put into place and executed on a daily basis. i think we did have adequate resourgss, one of the things i'm thrilled about, your efforts to get the drawing that he university of alaska fair banks, that was something that was employed in this fire, sort of at the end of it to do overflights and it's something that will be even more increasingly valuable tool as we move forward. the state of alaska has an incredible remove wildland areas and a lot of interface between rural and urban and small pockets of developed areas and population. it's critical in alaska.
i want to again thank you and thank the incident command team, rob allen, also the fema and tree planning through our office of emergency management and coordination at our director did to help support that effort, all of that -- this was a good example of how in part we were lucky but the realty is there was a lot of planning that went into it well in advance of when a fire might happen and it really worked in this case. i think it's a good example of right amount of resources and expertise that's brought in to a lot of different areas around the country and state. it was impressive. thank you. >> these are pictures from that fire and it's incredible devastation that occurred and i was down there on monday, as mayor talked about, some
incredible resources came to the table at the right time. there was one thing you had mentioned and i want to ask you, made a note here. your borough mapping system, was that funded by the borough or a combination of federal or state? how does that? how did you upgrade that? >> you know, it's operated by the peninsula borough and available public and and has a lot of tools that folks are familiar with the gis systems can tap into and use to get all kinds of different vegetation mapping, there are a lot of tools that can be used to identify where strategies can be employ d to attack a fire like this. the other thing that i should mention and you're aware of it, oftentimes at the federal level, the sheer perspective and size of this fire was huge but in
terms of the state of peninsula, it's only a small portion of our land mass. >> if i can, i don't know, maybe jim you might be able to answer this first question i have, when i was down there i took a tour of some of the areas. what i saw was these areas where they thinned out some of the trees, kind of found natural breaks and the mayor described these areas. you can go from the heavy clustered areas and thinned out areas and some cases a road or utility corridor. and the comments i got was a raging fire. then when it hit that thinned out area dropped lower to the ground, firefighters could attack it and manage it quicker. and control it at that point. they were describing to me that that came from -- i was expecting to hear a big number to be honest with you, a big cost to that piece. they said that was about
$175,000 out of the wildland's fire fund, that they were able to get a grant for to do that. can you tell me the status? i know that has been under pressure for many years and that's more preventive than disaster. so can you tell me a little bit about that fund? is administration looking at long term for that and additional resources and does that connect at all -- and i'll put this issue way over here for a second. i know the president put together a proposal, a billion dollars in climate change issues and so forth, disaster management, other things, is that at all connected or a two-part question, the impact was unbelievable because they showed me the area where they were unable to do it and it just swept across the road. >> mr. chairman, as you just described the effect of that
kind of land treatment on fire behavior is exactly right. and that's what we're after. and where we place those treatments is pretty important too. if we do that in combination with a community that has invested in being adapted to fire, a little more firewise, then we have a chance of protecting that community and saving it, even when fire like this comes their way. and most of that money is appropriated through the forest service. we work through the state forestry agencies on the private lands at least. and what happens there is a k t kpetty tif process and many being allocated. >> is that fund, that money comes out of for local communities like this, give me the sense of that.
i understand it's under pressure and not as robust funding as it used to be. can you comment on that? >> we try to protect that one. >> does it need more? >> i'm giving you a softball. i know you can't answer because they haven't told you but -- >> what i think i can say. >> i might jump to these two to answer. >> it's not -- you ask if it was connected to the president's climate change proposal and we are working with the administration on what we might be able to impose in that regard. but perhaps it is definitely connected to the proposal for how we finance suppression. if that were to pass, go into effect and free up for the forest service roughly $300 million, of discretionary funding and the appropriators of
course control that, that would be our proposal to use it this way. >> let me make sure i clarify what that is because i know some people might be watching or later find out what we're talking about. in the past, the way your disasters were funded were fires occur. you rob all of these accounts because we never funded enough. then we come back to try to fix it all and never do totally. now the idea is and i might be wrong about the numbers but know i'm close, 80% of what the cost is and try to fund it. you're at least having a budget to work from so you're not robbing other agencies, is that fair? >> that's fair. >> i can tell you when i said that, doing a press conference and i said that, one of your employees in the middle of the press conference jumped excited about the whole thing. it sounds like that is a big piece of this puzzle that you need to kind of get out of the
way in order to fund. this is the piece that they were working on but as appropriator we'll try to do that this year in the appropriations process. that's a real positive for all of us. is that a fair statement? >> that's a fair statement. thank you very much. >> let me ask you, there was an estimate or -- we know the money has gone to 3 billion and we'll still be half a billion short. do i agree with that? based on your analysis and what you're seeing this summer? >> those forecasts come from forest service research and they provide them to us periodically during the year. it's based on what's going on with the forest conditions and based on the drought and based on what -- how the weather patterns are setting up with pacific os lags and ocean temperatures and gives us an indication of what's coming our
way for the season and where it might hit and what that might cost. right now it is predicting that we will fall short. >> the question or comment that the mayor talked about about the beetle i know colorado has issues and northwest has issues, a constant growing problem, for several years i know alaska was earmarked. we had earmarks able to do this for some reason some people in this body don't like ear marks. i do. but people are -- i think not -- it was not taking from the budget but taking from the existing budget and do you think we have enough resources to go after -- i use spruce bark beetle in my state, basically beetle kill or forests that have dead kill in them, are we doing enough there? or do you think that's an area that maybe we better be watching
carefully here because it could be growing because of these drier temperatures and droughts we're facing? does that question make sense? >> yes, the drier temperatures and drought, the condition of the forest in the west it's largely a disturbance forest and being regenerated by disturbance, fire, insect and disease. that's going to continue on a large scale. there are things we can do to mitigate that. we can't stop it. but yes, there's more that can be done to help with the impacts of it. >> let me if i can to mayor navarre, you don't have anymore federal resources for that type of activity in the spruce bark beetle for cleanup or management or do you have federal resources you're tapping into? what are you doing now toe combat that issue?
>> what did we do -- >> in other words, the grant money you used to do? do you have any of that remaining that you can use to do the management or what are you doing now that those resources are pretty limited to manage that? >> well, it actually happened last time i was mayor from '96 to '99 where we identified the problem and before that mayor gillman had come to the as al alaska laegz lure to get funding. in '96 and flew over the entire peninsu peninsula, i was shocked at the level of infestation and potential for a huge fire. and really because of the different landownerships and
agency oversight and things like that, what we did initially was put a task force together that worked very well reaching common ground on things that everybody could agree on. natural fire breaks and enhan enhancing them, whether there are power lines where you have 100 foot right away and trees on either side 200 feet tall. trying to broaden those and making sure you're clear rights of ways for roads a little bit further. then, perhaps as importantly as is the firewise program, things like that. because people want to stay in their homes and protect their homes. it's their largest investment often times in their entire life. so making plans ahead of time that put resources into those types of necessary areas so that when you have an event like this, you have the ability to
actually combat it on a reasonable basis and at the same time, putting adequate resources to it and protecting the folks who are actually out there fighting it as well as the urban areas. we still have areas that we could use additional funding for but we're going to go forward with that in any event. the educational process for homeowners, where they can build protections as best they can and then making sure that emergency operations plans are in place and reverse 911 system worked exceptionally well for pre-notifying folks and when there was an evacuation in two areas we could get them out in an orderly manner, again, it -- those are things that are critically important in the interim between what as i said
we know are going to be growing numbers of fires. >> thank you very much. >> jim, i said i have no more questions but i have one more. i just remembered when senator mayor navarre was talking to me. down in -- i saw this map, utility company, i think it might be homer electricity. they had a power line going through two federal properties, one at a reserve and one not. and yet they were able to clear the power line area all the way and then the new designation goes after that and they can't clear. to anyone else you wouldn't know the difference between the land and you see there's no clearing going on. and their point was part of their job because they have to access those utility lines, they have that area cleared but from a fire protection area, it's a
fantastic opportunity there have you run into this problem elsewhere where you might have a different decembsignation and another one side by side, maybe the west has this problem. and yet -- i couldn't believe the map. just clearly they show where they clear cut and this strip where the power line, break, everything then this storps. the utility corridor keeps going and yet the fire could occur anywhere. do you run into this? is there something not to get you in trouble with any other agency, is there something we could do here to help this problem? >> yes, we run into the problem and it's not just differences of federal ownership but differences with state and private ownership. when we get into this, it really takes everybody coming together and different agencies have
different mandates. and different environmental clearance processes that they have to go through. but when you have a common problem such as this, and you have values at risk that need to be protected then you need to find a way of working it out together. >> i may bring you an issue then because in some of the states that have had huge swath of jurisdictional issues, especially federal land, seems like we should figure out this. the comment -- on one hand we're watching one area burn up, the other hand we're controlling it on another hand because we did this this way and other side burning it up because we didn't do the right control. we'll follow up. let me, if i can too, william and kevin, thank you very much for being here. there was a recently released national wildfire strategy. are either one of you familiar with that? william, you want to go first? >> yes. >> can i assume and if i'm wrong, correct me. can i assume -- your organization or members of your
organization might have been involved in the strategy or at least responded to the strategy? >> our organization was not directly engaged in that. we've certainly have had input over the years talking about fire management issues and about kind of the more strategic picture with how we manage our landscapes across the country. >> do you think -- why i bring this up, kevin had a comment about a blue ribbon community. and one thing i'm always nervous about is another committee around this place. we'll committee stuff to death. you mentioned the i.g. report which is a question i'll ask my staff, what have we done and not done, because as we found with the v.a. when you have ig reports, you should respond to them. this might be the same thing. do you think this strategy could morph into where we engage stake
holders to say, look, we've got this strategy, is it the right strategy? what's the action plan that goes with the strategy to move us forward in a preventive way as well as a response in a sense. can you respond to that? >> i think the national strategy has great utility to get us thinking about how we engage -- how we engage each other across jurisdictional boundaries, across geopolitical boundaries and other regional boundaries. that's part of the problem we have in this country -- >> some of those land issues -- jurisdictional. >> absolutely they are. it becomes very difficult and challenging to try to deal with fire across those boundaries.
because you have to understand fire doesn't respect geopolitical boundaries or other jurisdictional boundaries. >> we saw that in kenai, they really don't. >> the challenge for us as a country is to figure out how can we engage the stake holder as and get people to understand this is not just a federal issue and just a state issue and local issue? this is a national issue that everybody has skin in the game on. >> good example of that, $3 billion plus taxpayer money and i think the data point that jim, you gave which i thought was interesting, 98% of those you get right at them, 2% that then added 30% of the cost. and it's -- those are ones where we may not be as aggressive as we maybe could be. i thought that was an interesting quote. let me -- can i ask -- i'm going to jump back and forth. you heard the commentary here.
i like the idea that we kind of attack this issue in the sense of what -- there are clearly changes in the environment for alaska to have a fire of that magnitude in may is unheard of. and we were very, very fortunate where it was and how quickly they could control it on the back end. it could have got to a whole bunch of properties and homes and lives and it seems like these little things of prevention could actually -- in some cases we lucked out and jumped over a river. but then hit a swamp. you know, thank god the swamp was there. it was going to move in a different direction. the winds helped us but then the winds were moving left and right literally in a 24-hour cycle and aggressively moving that fire. give me a thought on this strategy and could it be morphed into this idea you have that getting stake holders and going after this. >> let me first say as an old firefighter, i'm not much on commissions or meetings.
>> i know a lot of firefighters and you fit that mold, i can tell you right now. >> with respect to this issue first, i do want to laud what the national action plan has done. it has an awful lot of utility and the wildland fire leadership council is doing a good job. the international association is not part of this but this is not a parochial issue for us. this is such a complicated issue. you can get firefighters in a room and come to the consensus on pt ground, the coordination between state and local assets is tremendous, but it's more than just a fire problem. in my oral testimony i use the term wholistic, if you read the action plan and it's a great document, all it talks about throughout the document is bringing people outside the fire service, other stake holders to the table. quite frankly efforts were undertaken several years ago, the international codes council on trying to bring people together. and they weren't successful.
why? because frankly nobody had the hammer to get all of the stake holders sitting at the table. the home builders and code enforcement, all of these people who weren't part of the effort but need to be involved in larger dialogue as it results to this problem. as everyone testified, it is going to be a problem for many, many years. my analogy was look at mrk america burning -- >> if i can interrupt, what happened there was congress got involved and said, we see this as a national issue, we want to have a strategy that has an action plan to determine if we can fund it, make it happen from the state, local, private federal level. that's kind of what happened there. >> that's absolutely correct. i have an aversion to those type of commissions, i don't see any other entity aside from the federal government that can force people to have that
conversation. >> would you agree with that? >> i think we need to be sort of -- start thinking outside the box of, you know, what do we need to do. what are the interests we need to satisfy to get these people to the table? for some it may be we might need to consider some sort of incentive program such as if you participate in this program and do certain pretreatments to your land, you could get a tax break, for example. >> got you. >> that's an interesting idea. >> so, because, again, as you described on the kenai with the utility corridor, if we have people that are participating or landowners participating in other landowners that are not, that's really not going to solve the big problem. >> more amazing that they were two federal agencies, one
wanting to and one not. >> that is something you definitely have control over. >> you had said something that -- two things, in your written testimony it says we are still doing business the old way and it's not working. then you also talk in your oral presentation about apprenticeship programs which i'm always intrigued. we used them quite a bit when i was mayor of anchorage and as senator use internship programs all the time. i was intrigued by that. can you -- you say with business kind of as usual not changing much, can you give me a sense of one of those inno vacations we need to be doing, which i do agree on issue of a temporary -- we had the same problem when i was mayor, we had great parks and rec people that came back every single summer. they had probably 20 years doing it. because the way the system worked, the first someone to
come in working for the city full-time, first year, walk in and have a better chance of getting the job than the temporary. we changed that because if you have 20 years working season, the odds are you're good at it because we wouldn't hire you back for 20 years. i introduced legislation to fix that. we think there are a lot of interesting ideas here. tell me what you're thinking when you say the old way. >> another good example is the funding issue, how do we pay for fire suppression? historically federal agencies have basically been given a budget of x million dollars for fire suppression. when the money runs out -- >> we rob everywhere. >> the agency is forced to look elsewhere in the budget to come up. again, we can't, fire is unique relatively speaking in terms of an agency's program.
we can't just when the money runs out can't just walk away and fold our tents up and leave. >> again, so you support the support of the bill and what we're doing in appropriations committee, which i feel confident we're moving in right path here when we get the interior budget bill we're doing two bills a week now in the full committee. >> we know the average and know what's going to happen. we would hope not, everyone hopes we don't spend anything in disaster fire fighting. >> i think that that's going to ensure that the agency has the funds in the programs that help to accomplish the mission, whether the programs are
pre-treatment instead of robbing money from pre-treating forest fuels and have a full budget and we can continue to do these projects to mitigate future fire occurrences and hopefully allow us to catch fires when they are small before they escape and become huge catastrophes. >> i absolutely concur. we have to have a different mentality. years ago, wildfires were largely contained in areas, they were simply that, wildland. massive fires and it's a natural phenomenon and they burn. part of the mentality was you let it burn. i'm not qualified from an environmental standpoint to comment on that. with the fire fighting standpoint, we have to change your view on how to do that. when you talk to the folks in terms of my membership which is
municipal, we don't represent the wildland folks but almost all west of the mississippi are engaged in fire fighting. the coordination on the ground is great. if for example in california we have a california department of forestry and able to mitigate before federal resources are there. conversely, the same thing happens when there's a federal station near a state land or privately held land. the radio systems are compatible, there's a unified command structure and it works very well. however, what we are hearing from our folks is that there is an issue and it gets back to money on timely repayments for local assets assisting the federal government. this is something that particularly in california some municipalities and counties are actually skewing a little bit mutual aid agreements because they are concerned and it gets back to base he canally money, the same thing applies to training.
training is vitally important. but when you have a municipal fire department and has to train people on structural response and ems and hazardous material, clearly there's only so much money in a pot. one of the things we want to ensure, the red card, qualified certification versus the trained certification, we want to make sure that every one of our firefighters exposed to wildland fire is going to be number one safe and number two effective on the fire line. there's no substitute for training and unfortunately that cost money. >> let me ask one last question. >> i know in the fire, correct me if i'm wrong, or jim you might know this, we had to bring two canadian water tankers if i remember right to our crew, if i remember this right.
this is what happened, they brought in blackhawk helicopters and had planes that were also deploying retardant in areas that it would be effective on the particular fuel sources. >> i assume one of them was our international agreement and the states that border from the lower 48. do you -- on the equipment that we have, that we operate and we have relationships with, do we believe that that we have good resources for continued maintenance or is that an area we have to look at long term to make sure that we're not -- let's assume, for example, this season is a busy season again. it's the argument you might make for a guy doing aviation that the more hours you put on the plane, the more wear and tear it
takes and therefore the capacity for it to operate long are term diminishes. do you see that as an issue that we need to really reexamine because fires are more severe and happening on longer spreads of time? meaning season is longer, i should say. is that something we have to look at or something you are looking at or? >> both. we are looking at it. we have made some strides. we have moved from primary fleet of 1950 vintage aircraft that are getting tired to a next generation fleet, but we're just getting into that. there's a ways to go on making sure we've updated our aviation assets, especially the large air tank portion of that. i would say that the progress is good but we're not there. >> and we did something last year if i remember this right through the national defense authorization bill, we got 21
and 14 went to the coast guard. >> that's correct. >> of surplus planes from the military, who knows what they were going to do with them. but they saw an opportunity, right and we were able to mobilize them for forest service as well as for the u.s. coast guard? >> yes, that's correct. that was a welcome addition to the fleet. and we don't have those yet but we will. we'll start phasing them in next year. that was seven c-130 hs and we have 16 sherpa aircraft. >> i know we worked on that from our office with senator mccain because we thought it was a great win-win, for equipment that's desperately needed. we were happy to do that. i think the record -- the record will stay open for 14 days.
i want to thank the full panel here, especially mayor nevarre, via teleconference. you're here, which is good. we appreciate that. especially because you're dealing with a real live issue on the ground. we thank the panel here and thank you for your written testimony, there's a lot of suggestions that you placed in there that will examine. this committee that deals with emergency disaster first responders, fema and others, this is an important issue and i have a feeling as you described very well, mr. hubbard, that the summer is just beginning and we're already seeing a lot of issues. thank you all very much. the meeting is adjourned and record will be open for 14 days. >> thank you.
>> if you missed any of this hearing you can watch at c-span.org. >> president obama and british prime minister cameron, both leaders discussed the situation in ukraine, the 70th anniversary of d-day and relations with russia. can you see today's news conference ats 8:00 p.m. eastern on our companion network c-span. the president travels to the
cemetery and memorial to commemorate the 70th anniversary of d-day, he'll speak along with french president fron kois hollande. we'll have the remarks live also on c-span. >> on a lonely win wind swept point on the northern shore of france, the air is soft but 40 years at this moment, it was dense with smoke and the cries of men and air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and roar of canon. at dawn on the 6th of june, 1944, 225 rangers jumped off the british landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. it was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion. to climb these sheer and december late cliffs and take out the enemy guns. the allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the allied advance. the rangers looked up and saw
the enemy soldiers at the edge of the cliff shooting down with machine guns and throwing grenades. and the american rangers began to climb. >> this weekend, american history today will mark the 70th anniversary of the d-day invasion of normandy starting at saturday, 10:30 a.m. and followed by historian craig symonds will would discuss his new book and at 12:30 take your comments and questions live. a look back at presidential speeches commemorating the day on american history tv, saturday on c-span3. senate majority lead harry reid testified on campaign finance reform.
in april the supreme court ruled 5-4 that the total limit an individual can contribute during an election cycle is a violation of free speech rights. the senate judiciary committee hearing is just under three hours. >> before i start, i think i am joined in this by senator grassley, that today's hearing deals with a serious issue. and i'm delighted to see so many members of the public who are interested and are here and also of course as is the practice that i began with the judiciary committee we stream these hearings live. but i expect all members of the public to understand this is a serious matter to act accordingly. the rules of the senate prohibit
outbursts and clapping and demonstrations of any kind, including those for or against positions i might take or any other senator might take or members might take, including the democratic leader and republican leader. and also, your prohibitive blocking the view of people around you, which means if you hold up signs to block people's views, i'll have to ask the capitol police to remove you. again, whether signs are favorable to our position or not. a lot of people stood in line a long time, everybody deserves the courtesy of being watched. i understand and there will be plenty of room outside for people to demonstrate and hold up signs and hope they'll get in the press, either for or against
or to do whatever they want to get press. i don't want to stop them from doing that. but there will be a press corps outside and the most -- might say i find those who can be the most imaginative in standing in a position whether in minority or majority, usually end up getting in the paper. and god bless them. this morning the senate judiciary committee begins the consideration of the damage done by flawed supreme court decisions that overturned longstanding precedents of the court. even eviscerated campaign finance laws. i believe left unanswered they'll continue to erode fundamental aspects of our democratic process and therefore
the american people have to act. years ago congress passed campaign finance laws to preserve the integrity of the electoral process and prevent andundue influence of the wealthy and special interests in our election. rules that each of us had to follow. and these were passed by large majorities, republican and democrat in the senate and house, but five justices have now repeatedly overturned these common sense and time-honored protections in the citizens united cases. the supreme court opened the flood gate to billionaires who are pouring vast amounts of unfettered and undisclosed dollars to political campaigns across the country. just as john paul stevens had it right when he wrote to the court addition saying it threatened to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the
nation. i've heard from countless how this supreme court decision threatened the constitutional rights of hard-working american whose want to have their voices heard, not drowned in a series of special interests, of flooded campaign ads on television. also like to know who is actually behind the ads for or against a particular person. the american people continue to voice their support through other avenues. more than 2 million individuals signed petition calling for constitutional amendment to fight back against the effects of the supreme court's decisions regarding money and politics. those petition have been brought, i believe, to our hearing room today. those are in those boxes in the
back, those large white boxes. they're a tangible reminder americans are calling on congress to act. you know, the ability of all americans, not just wealthy ones to express their views and have their voices heard in the political processes vital to self-government. the common sense of the american people tell us that corporations are not people. supreme court says corporations are people, but we are probably not going to elect a general electric president. those cannot reasonably argue framers viewed the rights of corporations as central to our electoral process. i served in the senate for nearly 40 years. chairman of the judiciary committee for nearly ten. i've long been wary of attempts to change the constitution because i've seen hundreds of
proposals i've opposed used like bumper stickers to score political points. fundamental charter is sacred and should only be done as a last resort. like most vermonter, i believe we must address the corrosive decisions by the supreme court that dismantled nearly every reasonable protection against corruption in our political process. we had years to pass the law that required transparency and disclose political spending. let people know where the money is coming from and from whom and which special interest it might be. unfortunately, senator republicans are repeatedly filibusters that legislation known as the disclose act. it would have at least allowed people to know who is putting the money into our electoral process. i hope to convince enough of my
friends on the other side of the aisle to overcome the filibuster of this transparency matter. because the supreme court based rulings on the fly of the interpretation of the first amendment, a statuary fix will not suffice. we'll turn first to senator grassley. then we want to hear from senator reid and senator mcconnell. i want to thank my friends harry reid and mitch mcconnell for being here. i think their joint appearance is the first in this committee's history as near as we can tell. i can only speak for 40 years of the economies's's history. it underscores the importance of public discussion we are having today. we may disagree on some issues, both the senators are good friends of mine and i'm glad to have them here. >> mr. chairman, our leaders and my colleagues on this committee, i can't think of a more important hearing our committee could hold.
after all, what is more important than protecting our bill of rights? however, this hearing also shows as clearly as possible the differences between conservatism and progressivism. let's start with first principles. the declaration of independence states that everyone is endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights our government are to protect. they include right to liberty. the constitution was adopted to secure the blessings of liberty to all americans. in the period of time 1787 to '89 americans rejected the view the structural limits of government power contained in the original constitution would adequately protect the liberties that they had fought a revolution to preserve. so they insisted at that time on the adoption of the bill of rights. the bill of rights protects individual rights regardless of
whether the government or the majority approves of their use. the first amendment in the bill of rights protects the freedom of speech. that freedom is basic to self-government. other parts of the constitution foster equality or justice of a representative government. the bill of rights is only about one thing, individual freedom. free speech creates a marketplace of ideas in which citizens can learn, debate and persuade fellow citizens on the issues of the day. at its core, it enables the citizenry to be educated to cast votes to elect leaders. today freedom of speech is threatened as it has not been in decades. too many people are impatient and will not listen and debate and persuade. instead they want to punish, intimidate and silence those with whom they disagree. a corporate executive who opposed same-sex marriage, the same position president obama
held at that time is to be fired. universities that are supposed to be fostering academic freedom cancel graduation speeches by speakers that some students find offensive. government officials order other government officials not to deviate from the party line concerning proposed legislation. now, today, sj-res 19 cut from the same cloth to amend the constitution for the first time to diminish an important right that americans have that's contained in the bill of rights. in fact, it would cut back on the most important of these rights, core free speech, about who should be elected to govern ourselves. the proposed constitutional amendment would enable government to limit funds contributed to candidates or funds in support of candidates. that would give the government the ability to limit speech. the amendment would even allow the government to set the limit
at zero. there could be no contributions. there could be no election spending. there could be no public debate on who should be elected. as you can conclude, incumbents like us here at table, would find that outcome to be very acceptable. they would know no challenger could run an effective campaign against them. rationing of speech at low limits would produce similar results. what president would this amendment create? suppose congress passed limits on what people could spend on abortions or what doctors or hospitals could spend to perform them? what if congress limited the amount of money people can spend on guns or the limit on how much money could spend on their own health care? should congress limit how much people can give to charities and how much charity can spend? under this amendment, congress could do what the citizens
united decision rightfully said it could not. for instance, it could not make any criminal offense for the sierra club to run an ad urging the public to defeat a congressman who favors augie in the national forest. it could not stop the national rifle association or it could stop the national rifle association from publishing a book seeking public support for a challenger to a senator who favors a hand gun ban. or for the aclu to post on its website a plea for voters to support a presidential candidate because of his stance on free speech. that should be frightening prospects to all of us. under this amendment, congress and the states could limit campaign contributions and expenditures without limit and without complying with existing constitutional provisions. congress could pass a law limiting expenditures by democrats but not by
republicans, by opponents of obamacare but not by supporters. and what does the amendment mean when it means, when it says congress can limit funds spent in opposition to candidates? if an elected official says he or she plans to run again, long before any election, congress under this amendment could criminalize any criticism of that official as spending in opposition to a candidate. a senator on the senate floor appearing on c-span, free of charge, could with immunity defame a private citizen. the member could say that the citizen was buying elections if the citizen spent any money to rebut the charge, he could end up being charged. we would be back to the days when criticism of elections officials is a criminal offense. you remember the alien sedition acts. they say this is necessary for democracy.
it's outrageous to say limiting speech is necessary for democracy. the only existing right that the amendment says it will not harm is freedom of the press, so congress and the states could limit the speech of anyone except those corporations that control the media. that would produce an orwellian world in which every speaker is equal but some are more equal than others. freedom of press has never been understood to give the media special constitutional rights denied to others. after years of denying it, supporters of political spending limits now admit enacting their agenda of restricting speech may require an amendment to our fundamental charter of liberty, but in light of recent supreme court decisions an amendment soon may not be needed at all. there were four justices right now would allow core political speech to be restricted. were a fifth justice with this view to be appointed there would
be no need to amend the constitution cut back on freedom. justice breyers' descent in the mccutcheon decision does not view freedom of speech as an end itself. our founding fathers did view that as an end itself. justice brier thinks thinks free political speech is about the public's interest in preserving a democratic order in which collective speech matters, end of quote. individual rights often advance socially desired goals, but our constitutional rights do not depend on whether unelected judges believe they advance democracy as they conceive it. our constitutional rights are individual. they are not collective. never 225 years has any supreme court opinion described our rights as "collective." so as the declaration of
independence states, our rights they come from god, not the government or the public. consider the history of the last 100 years. freedom has flourished where rights belong to individuals that governments were bound to respect. where rights were collective and existing only at the whim of a government that determines when they serve socially desirable purposes the results have been literally horrific. so we should not move even one inch in the direction of liberal justices and where this amendment would take us. the stakes could not be higher for all americans who value their rights and freedoms. speech concerning who the people's elected representatives should be, speech setting the agenda for public discourse, speech designed to open and change the minds of our fellow citizens, speech criticizing
politicians and speech challenging government policies are all in this nation vital rights. this amendment puts all of them in jeopardy upon the penalty of prosecution. it would make america no longer america, so i intend to do what i can to stop it and urge others to do the same. thank you. >> thank you, senator grassley. i appreciate what you said about the supreme court. who knows maybe some day we'll have supreme court justices that follow the oath they said they would follow. what i want to do is hear from senator reid and senator mcconnell. then because the chair ranking member of the subcommittee will be handling this, very brief remarks from senator durbin and senator cruz. senator reid. thank you for convening this
hearing. i know -- you mind me all the time all the work that's done out of this committee. having served in state legislature in a judiciary committee, i understand much of the work is funneled through this committee. either on a state level or federal level. senator grassley, thank you for also your statement. i'm very impressed with the's tendians here todaattendance he. it's heart warming to see everyone care about this issue. mr. chairman, members of the committee, i'm here because the flood of dark money donation political system poses the greatest threat to our democracy i witnessed during my tenure in public service. the decision of the supreme court have left the american people with a status quo which one side's billionaires are pitted against the other side's
billionaires. so we sit here today with a simple choice. we can keep the status quo and argue all day and all night, weekend weekends, forever, about whose billionaires are right and whose billionaires are wrong. or we can work together to change the system, to get this shady money out of our democracy and restore the basic principles of one america, one vote. mr. president, just a little bit of history from my perspective. i ran for the senate in 1974. and i had to be educated as to what the federal laws were. because in nevada we had an entirely different system. cash was available to politicians. the federal system, that's not
the case. and that was not the case. very close advisor by the name of lane pearson was supporting me and said under the federal laws be very careful. you can't take cash from anybody, the rules are very strict. whoever gives you money, is there a limit how much they can give. you give their address, their occupation and be very careful any money you take, there is a new system. mr. chairman, i've been asking nevadians to vote for me for decades and i've seen first hand how this dark money is pefrting our political system. way back then, 40 years ago, it was pretty easy to do to follow
the rules. i've seen it change. in 1998, i had a very close election with john enson. we spent about $10 million. we were allowed to do that because the supreme court left an opening that said you could divert money into the state party, and that money could be corporate money, could be any money that could be used for denigrating the other person who are building the person who had the money up. it was a bad situation. i felt so unclean, for lack of a better word person could give lots of money. one person gave a quarter of a
million dollars for the state party. now, mr. president, i hope that did not corrupt me but it was corrupt i corrupting. and after 1998, too good senators got together and worked very hard to change that. we had the mccain-feingold law that came into effect and took corporate money out of politics. so when i ran in 2004, it was like i had taken a bath and felt so clean. because an election that everyone who was involved in a federal election had to list where they got the money. there was a limit how much you could ask and get from someone else. you listed their occupation and so on.
that was wonderful. then comes 2010. back into the sewer. that was the race that citizens united in january had ruled no holds barred. any money could come from any source with rare exception. that race, as far as i was conce concerned, not a lot of fun. 1998. i talked to you about that. 2010 made 1998 seem like a picnic in the park. money coming from every place. and mr. president, not a suggestion where the money came
from. citizens for good government, good guys sponsored this one. now, from 1998 to 2010, i have no idea. i have an idea, but in that race in nevada, probably $120 million was spent in that race. can you imagine that? no one knew where the money came from and the people in nevada were subjected to false and misleading ads, not knowing anything about these shadow group groups. that was 2010. 2012 it even got worse.
and here we are, mr. president. the citizens united case and the other decisions the supreme court has made has only made it worse. during the 2012 presidential campaign, outside groups spent more than $1 billion, that's a conservative estimate. that's about as much money as was spent in the previous 12 elections. but this spike in the amount of shadowy money being pumped into elections isn't surprising. recent decisions rendered by the united states supreme court, i mentioned it, citizens united,
mccutcheon viscerated campaign finance laws. critics scoff as critics of do government. it wasn't that long ago the issue of campaign finance reform enjoyed support from both democrats and republicans. campaign finance reform has been proposed a number of times before. even by my friend the republican leader senator mcconnell. senator mcconnell's own constitutional amendment, his own, sponsored it. empowered congress to enact laws to regulate amounts of expenditures which, quote from his legislation can be made to expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate for federal office, close quote. advocating for this perform, senator mcconnell said, and i quote, "we republicans have put together a responsible and
constitutional campaign reform agenda. it would restrict the power of a special interest backs, stop the flow of all soft money, keep wealthy individuals from buying public office." there's a lot more that he said. that gives you the general idea at one time senator mcconnell agreed, without question, with me and most of the people behind me. senator mcconnell had the right idea then. and i'm hopeful that we can rekindle a way to bring forth these noble principles again. i find it hard to fathom why my republican colleagues would want to defend the status quo. is there any member of this committee who believe the status quo is good? although he opposed billionaires using their own money to run for
office, senator mcconnell supports billionaires' ability to fund today's campaign and independent expenditures. he even declares today, "in our society, spending is speech." how could everyday working american families afford to make their voices heard if money equals free speech? american families can't compete with billionaires if free speech is based on how much money you have. my republican colleagues attempt to cloak their defense of the status quo in terms of noble principles, they defend the money pumped into our system by the coke brothers as free speech. mr. president, i defy anyone to determine what the coke brothers are spending money on politically. they have phantom organizations. they've got a new one on
veterans, one on senior citizens, another name. they must have 15 different phony organizations that they use to pump money into the system, to hide who they really are. the two wealthiest men in ameri america. our involvement in government should not be dependent on our bank account balances. the american people reject the notion that money gives the coke brothers, corporations or special interest groups a greater voice in america than a mechanic, a lawyer, a doctor, a health care worker. because they believe, as i do, that elections in our country should be decided by voters. those americans who have constitutional and fundamental right to elect their representatives. the constitution that everybody
loves to talk about doesn't give corporations a vote and it doesn't give dollar bills a right to vote. the undue influence that my friend decried three decades ago has not magically transformed into free speech. david copperfield in las vegas, the great illusionist couldn't come up with that one. it's still bad for america. it's bad for the body politic. we must undo the damage done by the supreme court's recent campaign finance decision, and we need to do it now. i support this constitution amendment. i admire and i congratulate senators tom udall and senators michael bennett offering this amendment which grants comment the authority to limit raising of money for political
campaigns. the amendment will rein in the massive spending of super pacs, these organizations which have grown so, so much since that january 2010 decision of citizens united. a constitutional amendment also gives the states authority to limit campaign spending limits at state level. simply put, constitutional amendment is what the nation needs to bring sandt back to political campaigns, and restore americans' confidence in their elected leaders. the american people want change. they want their voice in government to be protected. free speech shouldn't cost the american people a penny, a dime. certainly not a dollar. so mr. chairman, members of the committee, i'm happy if you have questions you want to ask me, to wait, and i'm happy to do that.
otherwise, i would ask your leave and i will believe. >> thank you. i know both you and senator mcconnell have a great deal of things and following the tradition of the committee, let you both speak and leave. we'll have enough time for questions on the floor. i thank you very much, senator reid. >> you bet. mr. president, i want to make sure that high leaving doesn't take away at all from my friendship with mitch mcconnell. we've heard each other talk and criticized each other for years. he won't be upset that i'm leaving. >> no. no problem. >> as i noted, and i appreciate the sobriquet of mr. president, i assume you're referring to my
role as senator pro tem and deem of the senate. chairman is fine. i also note both senator grassley and i are friends of both senator mcconnell and senator reid and have been for years. i keep my baseball bat in my office. >> you never know when you might need it. >> i have it for my visit with you in kentucky. please go ahead, senator mcconnell. >> thank you, mr. chairman. given how incredibly bad this proposed amendment is, i can't blame my friend the majority leader from wanting to talk about things like the coke brothers or what i may have said over a quarter of a century ago. i'm going to confine my remarks to what's before us. i want to start by thank senator grassley for an absolutely outstand i outstandi
outstanding observation about what the first amendment was supposed to be about. and at the very core of it, of course, was political speech. americans from all walks of life understand how extraordinary, extraordinarily special the first amendment is. like the founders, they know that the free exchange of ideas and the ability to criticize their government are necessary for our democracy to survive. benjamin franklin noted that, "whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech." the first amendment is the constitutional guarantee of that freedom, and it is never, never been amended, ever. attempts to weaken the first amendment such as the proposal before this committee should therefore, pass the highest scrutiny. senate joint resolution 19 falls
far, far short of that high bar. it would empower uncouple bent politicians in congress and the states to write the rules on who gets to speak and who doesn't. and the american people should be concerned, and many are already that those in power would use this extraordinary authority to suppress speech that is critical of them, as senator grassley pointed out. i understand no politician likes to be criticized. some of us are criticized more often than the rest of us. but the recourse to being criticized is not to shut up your fellow citizens, which believe me this is designed to do. to give us the power to pick winners and losers in the political discussion in this country. that's what this amendment is all about. it's to defend your -- the seclusion to this is to defend your ideas, to defend your ideas more ably in the political
marketplace. to paraphrase justice holmes or simply come up with better ideas. the first amendment is purposely neutral when it comes to speech. it respects the right of every person to be heard without fear or favor, whether or not their views happen to be popular with the government at any given moment. the first amendment is also unequivocal. it provides that, "congress shall make no law." "congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech." the first amendment is about empowering the people not the government. the proposed amendment has it exactly backwards. it says that congress and the states can pass whatever law they want abridging political speech, a speech that is at the very core of the first amendment. if incumbent politicians were in charge of political speech, a majority could design the rules to benefit itself and diminish its opponents.
and when roles reverse you could expect a new majority would try to disadvantage the other half of the country, and on and on it would go. you can see why this is terrible policy. you can also see how this is at odds with the first amendment. that's why the last time a proposal like this was considered, in 2001 we had a vote on this. it was defeated on a bipartisan basis. i get the impression all the democrats now have walked away from the first amendment, but back then senator kennedy and senator feingold and several democratic colleagues voted against it. a similar proposal was likewise defeated in 1997. our colleagues who voted against those proposals were right. i respectfully submit they would be wrong now to support the latest proposal to weaken the first amendment. this is especially clear when one compares the language of the
amendments. senate joint resolution 4 back in 107th congress would have empowered the government to set, "reasonable limits", whatever that is, on political speech. the same was true of senate resolution 18 in the 105th congress. they at least limited the government's power to setting reasonable limits on speech. again, whatever that is. by contrast, the amendment we're discussing today would drop that pretense all together. it would give the government complete control, complete control over the political speech of its citizens. allowing it to set unreasonable limits on their political speech, including banning it outright. reminiscent of alien sedition acts. it would favor certain speakers
over others, it would guarantee such preferential treatment. it contains a provision not found in prior proposals which expressly provides that congress cannot abridge the freedom of the press, end quote. this is really great. if you are a corporation that owns a newspaper. this is terrific news for you. you get your speech, but nobody else does. the media wins and everybody else loses. now, everyone on this committee knows this proposal is never going to pass congress. this is a political exercise and that's all it is. the goal here is to stir up one party's political base so they'll show up in november. and it's to do it by complaining loudly by certain americans exercising their free speech and association rights while being perfectly happy that other americans, those who agree with the sponsors of this amendment are doing the same thing.
but the political nature of this exercise should not obscure how shockingly bad this proposal is. this is embarrassingly bad to be advocating for the first time in our history that we amend the first amendment to restrict the rights of citizens to speak. when it comes to free speech, we shouldn't substitute the incumbent protection desires of politicians or the protection the constitution guarantees to all americans. i can remember a time when on a bipartisan basis we all agreed to that, or at least most of us did. it's too bad we can't agree on it now. i would urge the committee to reject this dangerous proposal to dramatically weaken one of our most precious freedoms. mr. chairman, i appreciate the opportunity to be here. would love to stay for the rest of your hearing, but i'll see you later. >> i have a feeling you'll be able to overcome your sorrow of not being able to be here, but i
know you, to quote the statement most often heard among senators, of course i'll read your statement in the record after. >> thank you. >> senator durbin? >> mr. chairman, thank you very much. as chairman of the subcommittee of the senate judiciary on constitutional amendments, i've had a personal point of view on this for a long time when it comes to the nature of amendments being offered. i think the constitution is written with the amendments that have been adopted constitute a sacred document that has guided this country well for decades and centuries. too often i have seen proposals for constitutional amendments which, in my view, take a roller to a rembrandt. i resisted many efforts to entice me into co-sponsoring constitutional amendments with rare exceptions. this is one of those exceptions. i am co-sponsoring this
amendment offered by senators tom udall and michael bennett. the time has come for us to do something to save this democracy and president clinton process that supports it. secondly, let me say at the outset that there is hardly a politician elected official alive who has not changed his or her position on an issue. that happens. i can recall when abraham lincoln was criticized for changing his position on an issue and he said, i'd rather be right some of the time than wrong all the time. so we're all at least can be charged with having done that in the past and maybe be guilty of the charge. but it is breathtaking the change that has taken place with the republican party in the united states senate on this issue. in 1987, the republican senate leader who just testified, senator mcconnell, introduced a constitutional amendment, a constitutional amendment very
similar to the one before us today. and this is what he said on the floor of the senate in introducing it, about his amendment. "this would give congress the opportunity to eliminate the millionaire's loophole. put everybody in the same footing so the meat cutter and coal miner and taxi cab driver and anybody else in american society can go out and get a lot of support from a lot of people could still raise the money, use the television, get into the race and build a contest." he went on to say, the fellow who inherited it or is shrewd enough to go out and get it could not use his personal money to buy political office. he would have to get the same broad based support the rest of us who are not millionaires do. that is a problem we can cure immediately, end of quote. that is what senator mcconnell said about his constitutional amendment offered in 1987, which parallels the amendment before this committee today. then time passed. by 2002, the story was
different. by 2002, we were debating mccain-feingold, the elimination of soft money in the campaign process. and then the position was taken by the senator from kentucky and many on his side, we just want full disclosure. we just want to know who is contributing the money, the american people have a right to know. that was the mantra for a long period of time. i just asked by colleague senator schumer as chairman of the rules committee whether any republicans supported our effort when we introduced the disclosed bill, which would have disclosed the contributors to political campaigns. our best memory is no. they now don't support disclosure. here we are today. many of us had hoped that fair elections now, a public financing bill which i introduced seven years ago and keep reinterest curoducing migh chance. with the citizens united decision, that is not likely. so far this year, spending by outside groups in campaigns has
tripled since the last midterm election. 27.6 million in 2010, $97.7 million so far this year. in 2006, before citizens united, these groups spent $3.5 million. in 2012 superpac spent more than $130 million on federal elections, 60% of all super pac donations that year came from an elite class of 159 americans. elections, 60% of all super pa donations that year came from an elite class of 159 americans. in north carolina that elite group had one member. 72% of all outside spending in 2010 came from a millionaire named art pope. can you guess who governor pat mccorvey named as north carolina's chief budget writer in 2013?
mr. pope who bank rolled the governor's campaign and supported the supermajority which recently enact ed the law. what is at stake is going to discourage mere mortals from engaging in this process. when you're up against multimillionaires from the start with unlimited contributions through citizens united, you will lose the appetite for the contest. we can't let that happen. neither political party can let that happen. >> senator durbin, thank you. i know at some point you are going to be taking over the gavel in the hearing. >> senator cornyn wants a statement in the record. >> senator cornyn requested a statement in the record. of course, without objection, it will be made part of the record. senator cruz. >> thank you, mr. chairman. america is an exceptional country. when our country was founded, we
crafted a constitution that thomas jefferson explained would serve as chains to bind the mischief of government. there's never been more mischief of government than there is right now. in the bill of rights, the first ten amendments to the constitution are precious to every american. the bill of rights begins with the first amendment for over two centuries congress has not dared to mess with the bill of rights. this amendment here today, if adopted, would repeal the free speech protections of the first amendment. mr. chairman, when citizens hear that, they gasp. as immune as we are to abuse of power from government, citizens are still astonished that
members of cook would dare support repealing the first amendment. and let's be clear, this amendment doesn't just do it for corporation, it doesn't just do it for billionaires, nothing in this amendment is limited to corporations or billionaires. this amendment, if adopted, would give congress absolute authority to regulate the political speech of every single american. with no limitations whatsoever. this amendment is about power and it is about politicians silencing the citizens. mr. chairman, when did elected democrats abandon the bill of rights? mr. chairman where did the liberals go? in 1997 when a similar amendment was introduced, here is what ted kennedy said about it. "in the entire history of the
constitution we have never amended the bill of rights, and now is no time to start. it would be wrong to carve an exception to the first amendment. campaign finance reform is a serious problem, but it does not require that we twist the meaning of the constitution." mr. chairman, here is what democrat russ feingold said at the time, "mr. president, the constitution of this country was not a rough draft. we must stop treating it as such. the first amendment is the bedrock of the bill of rights. it has as its underpinnings that each individual as a natural and fundamental right to disagree with their elected leaders." not if this amendment passes. if this passes, congress can say you, the citizens are no longer citizens, you're subjects, because we repealed the first amendment and have taken away your ability to speak. senator feingold in 2001 said the following about a similar amendment, "this proposed
constitutional amendment would change the scope of the first amendment. i find nothing more sacred and treasured in our nation's history than the first amendment. it is the bedrock of the bill of rights. it has as its underpinnings the notion that every citizen has the fundamental right to disagree with his or her government. i want to leave the first amendment undisturbed." mr. chairman, i agree with ted kennedy and russ feingold, and where are the liberals today? why is there not a liberal standing here defending the bill of rights and the first amendment? mr. chairman, 42 democrats have signed their name to a constitutional amendment that would give congress the power to muzzle planned parenthood and the national right to life. 42 democrats have signed their name to giving congress the right to muzzle the sierra club. to muzzle the national rifle association and the brady center on hand gun violence.
to muzzle michael moore and da souza. to muzzle the teamsters, muzzle the naacp, pastors and priests and rabbis who organize their parishioners to be involved in politics. mr. chairman, i am today introducing two bills to further protect the free speech rights of individuals. i will be discussing those later in this hearing. but i would note, this amendment, if adopted, would give congress the power to ban books and to ban movies. and by the way, citizens united was about finding a movie maker who made a movie critical of hillary clinton. mr. chairman, ray bradbury would be astonished because we are seeing fahrenheit 451 democrats today.
the american people should be angry about this. and mr. chairman, the senators who put their name to this should be embarrassed they signed up for repealing the free speech amendment to the first amendment. thank you. >> the statements have been complete completed. i wonder if the senators could join us at the appropriate places on the table? the first witness will -- you know, it does -- officer, please
remove the man holding up the sign contrary to the rulings of the chair. as the committee knows, i've not taken a position one i would or another in these constitutional amendments. i want people who are for or against it to be able to be here. i do not want people blocking the views of others. you have plenty of time to do your photo opes outside, both for and against it. let's hear from the witnesses. first witness is floyd mckessick, served in the south carolina senate since 2007, currently deputy minority leader
as well as partner at the law firm mckessick and mckessic. senator, i apologize for the voice. it's allergies. i also note that your son is here. some day when somebody is looking through the mckissick, archives, they'll see that. >> thank you, mr. chairman. it's a privilege and honor to be here this morning. i want to thank all of you for this opportunity to testify. my name is floyd mckissick jr, a long-time represent of north carolina. i represent durham and glanville counties. i first entered the legislature in 2007. my time there can be roughly divided into two different periods, before citizens united and after. i entered politics the same
reason i'm sure many of you did. i saw ways north carolina's government could work more effectively, to make a difference for the people in my community who needed a hand up, a solid education, better jobs and safer communities. all that changed after citizens united. in 2010 alone, americans for prosperity, a group funded in large part by the coke brothers bid more than $250,000 in north carolina. a new organization sprang up called real jobs north carolina spent almost $1.5 million. overall, 3/4 of all the outside money in state races that year were tied to one man, art pope. pope and his associates poured money into 22 targeted races and the candidates they backed won in 18 of those races. in 2012, $8.1 million in outside money flooded into the governor's race. a large portion of that money was tied to mr. pope.
before he had been sworn into office, our new governor announced he would be writing the state budget. surprise, surprise, art pope is our state budget director at this time. he could afford to spend lavishly and he did and got his money's worth. when justice kennedy wrote in his decision at citizens united, he said limitless outside spending does not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption. try telling that to anyone who saw how the sausage got made in north carolina. there are winners and losers in every budget. in the budget he produced, it's undeniable mr. pope won big. our state/corporate income taxes and lowered the care paid by the state's wealthiest people. as for losers, there were plenty. tens of thousands of people who lost their unemployment benefits, public education funding was drastically cut back. half a million low-income people were refused access to medicaid we already paid for. while millionaires got a tax
break, some working families got a tax hike. that's not all. after a tide of dark money flooded our direction, we saw two big changes that should cause great concern for all of us. first, it got harder for ordinary people to vote. a month after the supreme court gutted section 5 of the voting rights act, north carolina passed one of the most restrictive any voter laws in the country. it cut the early vote period from 17 days under ten days and eliminated the ability of teenagers to preregister to vote before their 18th birthday and eliminated same-day voter registration. enacted a rigid voter identification requirement that required forms of i.d. more than 300,000 north carolinians don't have. those would have the biggest impact on students, elderly and poor. simply put, art pope, america's prosperity and the coke brothers paid big money to roll back the civil rights advance estrogen rations of americans paid for in
their blood. it got easier for rich people to pour money into elections. big donors got new opportunities to write bigger checks to candidates and got more ways to avoid any kind of disclosures in any public financing system we had, including one that provided for clean judicial was gutted. the result of that decision was particularly painful this year. i watched one of our sitting supreme court justices robert hudson attacked in the most despicable and dishonest way, $1 million was poured into that primary race with $600,000 coming from a washington-based organization trying to protect the anti-voter tactics and suppression laws pushed through the legislature. i cannot think of a more vicious cycle than taking a little more power from the voters and handing it to the big spenders. once big money got in our elections, that's what happened. public service is a calling. we are called to use our gift to create laws, exercise our judgment and administer our
cities, states and nations. citizens united, mccutcheon decision and supreme court decisions that occurred made this a mockery. what's left doesn't look like democracy. democracy is when the government represents the people. today it seems big money and big donors pull the strings while ordinary people find it harder for their voices to be heard. you have a chance to restore this democracy, restore the first amendment and make clear our government should represent all the people, not just the wealthy few. i urge you support senate joint resolution 19. >> thank you very much, senator. the next witness mr. floyd abrams is senior partner at the law firm cahill rydell in new york and not a stranger to this committee or this senate over the years. please go ahead, sir. >> thank you, senator leahy. i appreciate your invitation to appear here today. the description of the
constitutional amendment that is before you today states in its text that it, quote, relates to the contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections. that's one way to say it. i think it would have been more revealing to say that it actually relates to speech intended to affect elections. i think it would be even more accurate to say that it relates to limiting speech intended to affect elections. that's the core problem with it. it is intended to limit speech about elections, and it would do just that. to start at the beginning, this has been said before, it is worth repeating. no ruling providing first amendment protection has ever been reversed by a constitutional amendment. no ruling by the supreme court, no speech that the supreme court has concluded warranted first
amendment protection has ever been transformed by a constitutional amendment into becoming unprotected speech, and thus, subject to criminal sanctions. think of what we protect under the first amendment. chief justice roberts in the mccutcheon opinion observed that money and politics may be repugnant to some, but so, too, does most of, much of what of the first amendment vigorously protects. it protects flag burning, funeral protests and nazi parades, despite the profound offense such spectacles cause, it surely protects political campaign speech, despite popular opposition. the proposed amendment before you today deals with nothing except political campaign speech. it does not deal with money that is spent for any other purpose other than persuading people who
to vote for or against. as such, it would limit speech that is at the heart of the first amendment. the fact that the amendment is proposed in the name of equality makes it no less threatening. the supreme court observed, i think, with particular prescience with justice brennan, marshall, stewart, stalwart defenders of the first amendment, that the concept that government may restrict some elements, may restrict the speech of some elements of our society in order to enhance the relative voice of others is wholly foreign to the first amendment. it is that view, however, which is at the core of this amendment, which would reverse the buckley case, as well as citizens united. this amendment is not a citizens
united amendment. it goes way back to the 1970s and it would reverse buckley's ruling, as well, that independent expenditures are protected by by the first amendment. the title of the proposed amendment goes even father. it says that it would restore can mock kracy to the american people. i'm willing to pass over in silence rhetorical overkill about what democracy means. but the motion that democracy would be restored, saved by limiting speech is a perversion of the english language. it is inconsistent with any notion of democracy to say the way to accomplish it is to limit speech. so let me say in the most direct manner that it is deeply pro foundly obviously undemocratic
to limit speech. the other is that it's rooted in the disturbing context that those who hold office in federal and state legislature offices may effectively prevent their opponents from becoming known as a result of spending money to put ads on describing who they are. i just conclude with this thought. it's not a coincidence that until today the first amendment has never been amended. it's not a coincidence that no decision of the supreme court affirming first amendment rights has ever been overruled by constitutional amendments. emotions have run high before about decisions of the court which provided higher levels of liberty than members of this body thought was appropriate. but self restraint won the day and i urge that self restraint win the day today. thank you. >> thank you, mr. abrams.
next one is jamey raskin. professor raskin teaches constitutional law at american universities, washington college of law here in washington, d.c. if that's not enough to keep him busy, he also serves as a senator in the maryland state legislature. so professor raskin, welcome. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. delighted to be with you. we've built two walls to protect democracy. first is the separation between church and state which protects a nation free no thee roxy. the other is to separate money from democratic politics. we've worked to wall off a vast corporate wealth and personal fortunes from campaigns defining
the lecter rale arena as a place of equality. but four years ago a divided court bulldozed a major block of the wall, the one that kept trillions of dollars of corporate wealth from flowing into our campaigns. the same five justices struck down public finances programs that used matching funds to amplify the voices of poor candidates competing to be heard over the roar of bill money. in a world gone topsy-turvy, the majority treated campaign speech as a first amendment injury and struck down a state law that expands public debate and provides more voices, wider discussion and greater competition. this year in mccutcheon, the same tooif took a sledgehammer to limits ek powering tie cons to match out to every member of congress and their opponents. after these decisions, the wall
is crumbling. if we keep waiting around the last few bricks will be removed soon including contribution limits, the ban on corporation limits and the bands when states have in writing campaign checks. money is speech, corporations are people and to identify corruption you've got to find a bribe. this will enable us to protect democratic politics and free market economics. in politics we need to provide democratic self government where all voices can be heard and not drowned out by ceos who write checks with other people's money. in economics, we need to strengthen businesses that practice free market competition and pull the plug on rent seeking corporations that spend freely on campaigns now to obtain tax breaks, sweet heart deals and public subsidies
later. adam smith favored honest competition would tell us that in campaign finance, less isn't fair. when justice scalia went on cnn, he invoked everyone's favorite founder. thomas jefferson would have said, the more speech the better, he opined. he voiced dread at the prospect of plow took kracy. -- founded on banking institutions, riding and ruling over the plow men. this nightmare vision sounds a lot like the citizen's united era. the vast majority of americans are appalled. 89% oppose citizens united. 794% of voters in colorado and montana voted to call for this amendment. in 79% of the people favor limits on campaign money. this amendment protects our
power to set such limits, not by creating perfect equality. billionaires will have greater resources but by ensuring that the rich will inhabit the same as the nurses, small business leaders and middle class people. it's one thing to say that their 100,000 dollars contribution is to go up against a 5,000 dollar contribution, but not up against a $50 million contribution. i do think the amendment should more clearly empower the people to wall off campaigns from corporate treasury wealth which has been seen as a peril to democracy. this is no assault on the first amendment but citizen's united did not increase the rights. all it did was confer power on ceos to write checks on the corporate treasury account. without a vote of the shareholders and without notice to the shareholders.
the case has nothing to do with creating free speech of the people and everything to do increasing the power of the ceos over the people. if we do nothing now, the people will no longer govern the corporations, the corporations will govern the people. at times like this, we've amended the constitution. we did it with the disenfranchisement of women. most of the amendments added since the bill of rights has strength thenned the government and people. so don't be intimidated. the people are with you. >> thank you, professor raskin. let me begin in my time and then i'm going to turn the gavel over to senator durbin. of course followed by senator grassly.
senator mckissick, the story of our constitution has been one of inclusion. our founder fathers believed only white land owners should be allowed to participate in our elections. each generation of americans has expanded on the promise of our founding to marge toward a more perfect union. we've amended the constitution many times to ensure our representative, the 14th and 15th amendments, for example, they transformed the constitution and guaranteed the equal protection of law for all americans. and they prohibited the right to vote on the basis of race. the 17th amendment gave americans the right to elect senators of their choosing because there was a concern that corporations were corrupting our state legislature, so they could elect them. we continue with the 19th amendment, the that expands the
right to vote to women. the civil rights act, 1964, the rights act of 1965, 26th amendment extended the vote to young people. now, i mention all of those because they mark progress along the path of inclusion and make our country more representative. and i fear these supreme court decisions have reversed that course. your father was a civil rights leader. he continued his legacy in north carolina. do you believe the unprecedented money that the state wrass in the wake of citizen's united has led to a more representative state government in north carolina? >> it absolutely has not led to a more representative government in north carolina at all. the will of the people of the state of north carolina is not
being heard. and i think that's represented by these moral monday demonstrations which occurred in our state. they started with 500 people coming out every monday when we convened our sessions pro testing many of these regressive policies that have been implemented. they grew to masses of 7500 people. they were close to a thousand people arrested because they were absolutely opposed to the policies and initiatives and legislations that were coming out of raleigh. these were actions impacting voting rights for individuals. if you had polled people and asked them whether they liked the early vote period, well we've eliminated one week of that early vote period. in 2008 we had over 700,000 people vote that first week. by the time 2012 came, it was over 9,000 people voting. people had the right to